Barnsley Council announces Jon Finch as the new Head of Culture and Visitor Economy

Barnsley Council has appointed Jon Finch as its new Head of Culture and Visitor Economy, following the retirement of the previous head, Sue Thiedeman.

Sue, a powerhouse in the cultural sector, supported the already ambitious team at Barnsley, allowing them to achieve dizzying heights of success.  Following her arrival in Barnsley in 2013, her belief in the transformational power of culture led to it being a major driver of Barnsley’s recent renaissance.  With her endless enthusiasm and determination, the team have secured many accomplishments and accolades during her ten years in post, including achieving NPO status for Barnsley Museums and being shortlisted for the prestigious Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award in 2021.

Jon, who joins Barnsley from Bristol City Council, will be responsible for Barnsley Museums’ six permanent museum sites which include amongst others Experience Barnsley and Discovery Centre, Cannon Hall Museum, Park and Gardens, Elsecar Heritage Centre, and Discover Barnsley one of the first purpose-built museums in the town’s recently opened shopping centre, The Glass Works.

Lynn Dunning, Head of Barnsley Museums said: “Barnsley Museums has been on a transformational journey over recent years and as a team we are dedicated to bringing cultural excellence to the borough.  Our work impacts residents and visitors in many ways, and we will continue to work hard to support local communities and the wider Visitor Economy.  We look forward to welcoming Jon to his new role and are excited about the future of culture in Barnsley.”

Anthony Baker, Chief Executive Officer, The Civic Barnsley said: “We look forward to welcoming Jon to Barnsley at such an exciting time.  The Barnsley Civic is undergoing a spectacular transformation that will enhance the already brilliant cultural offer of the town and we look forward to working with Jon to continue that journey.”

Trevor Mitchell, Regional Director, Historic England said: “The success of Barnsley comes from its ambition and passion for working collaboratively with partner organisations to deliver for local people.  These opportunities to share knowledge, experience and expertise has made projects with the National Trust at Wentworth Castle Gardens, and with Historic England through the Elsecar and Eldon Street HAZ incredibly successful and impactful with residents and visitors. We know Jon will bring a great deal of experience of partnership working and it is great that he will be collaborating with us on delivering the second phase of the Eldon Street HAZ”

Jon will also continue to drive forward Barnsley’s growing Visitor Economy sector, putting the borough very firmly on the map as a top tourist destination and place of possibilities.  In recent times the town has bucked trends attracting record numbers of shoppers to the high street by investing in a transformed and multi-functional town centre, which hosts a spectacular annual events programme. This, combined with Jon’s dynamic approach to developing the borough’s cultural strategy, make it very exciting times in Barnsley.

Michael Hirst, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Barnsley Premier Leisure said: “Barnsley is brimming with amazing tourist attractions.  From water parks, National Trust properties, Georgian country houses, Industrial model village, nature reserves, farms, theatres and more.  It offers something for all tastes and ages.  Jon’s work on the Culture Strategy will amplify and support the work of the wider Visitor Economy, showcasing all we have to offer.”

Pete Massey, Director North & Director for Northern Economy and Partnerships, Arts Council England said: “Jon is joining Barnsley Council at a pivotal time for the town. Barnsley was recently announced as one of Arts Council England’s 15 priority places across the North which will see him and the team working closely with us to ensure creativity and culture is embedded across the borough. The recent success in securing financial support from the Government’s Cultural Development Fund will see significant changes to cultural hubs like Elsecar Heritage Centre and Barnsley’s principal towns and support levelling up across the region.”

Jon is currently Head of Culture and Creative Industries for Bristol, running a wide-ranging portfolio of services including museums, city events, archives, the film office, and Bottle Yard studios.  He has extensive experience of working across the cultural sector, both in the UK and abroad. After a decade in the local government sector leading museums, he spent eight years working in senior roles for the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council; firstly, as Head of Policy at MLA North West, and then as Chief Executive of MLA West Midlands.

Jon then moved into the private sector, setting up a successful consultancy company focused on providing support to cultural organisations around governance and enterprise. After a family move to Australia, he spent 15 successful months over there working as a consultant with museums, libraries and arts institutions across Australia, as well as taking short term opportunities to run a heritage service.

Jon returned to the UK and took on the role of repositioning one of the northwest’s foremost cultural institutions. As Head of Culture, he was jointly employed by Preston City and Lancashire Councils to run the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, as well as leading the initiation of a major £11 million capital redevelopment project of the Grade 1 listed building. 

Jon says: “Barnsley has a rich and inspirational heritage, and culture already plays a very important role in the borough.  There is a wonderful opportunity to place culture at the heart of Barnsley's plans for the future, and I look forward to working with communities, partners and colleagues across the Council to ensure this happens. I commence my role at the end of April and can’t wait to get started"

Kathy McArdle, Service Director Regeneration and Culture said: “We’re huge supporters of Culture in Barnsley, we see the benefits and positive impacts on both wellbeing and the economy.  There’s a real buzz around our borough as we continue to push boundaries and raise the bar when it comes to culture and heritage.  We are delighted Jon has joined the team, his extensive experience and knowledge will really drive forward our plans and help shape the towns future.”

Kate Brindley, Project Director Arts, Culture and Heritage for South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority is also delighted to have Jon come to Barnsley and be a part of the fantastic cultural and creative industries sector in the region. ‘The SYMCA are currently mapping the cultural and creative industries sector in South Yorkshire and discovering it is richer and deeper than we ever realised – it will be fantastic to work with Jon and the amazing team in Barnsley to continue to strengthen the role that culture plays in shaping the economy of South Yorkshire and its very special places’.

Find out more about Barnsley Museums here